Girl Ray & Gemma Ray (& Sparks)

Earl Grey is not my particular cup of tea. The lemony flavoured tea that is.
Earl Grey the album by Girl Ray on the other hand is flipping fantastic.

If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you’ll be aware of his 10,000 hour rule. This roughly holds that in order to truly excel in your chosen field you need to put in 10,000 hours of what he terms ‘deliberate practice’.* The author cites the example of The Beatles among others, pointing out the crucial part in their later success generated by their time spent in Hamburg, playing lengthy speed-fuelled shows night after night for months at the time.

Which doesn’t, though, explain why young bands like Girl Ray can arrive and already sound so accomplished.

Girl Ray consist of three teenagers from North London: Poppy Hankin (lovelorn & occasionally off-kilter vocals & guitar), Sophie Moss (bass) and Iris McConnell (drums). Earlier this year they recorded their debut album in Ramsgate with some help from their Man Ray, Mike O’Malley, who is now their touring guitarist.

Listening to Earl Grey reminds me on occasion of Gorky’s and Cate Le Bon and sometimes they even remind me of acts from outside Wales too although none of them could be filed under C86, a comparison that is often made.

Preacher starts out like one of those very idiosyncratic Velvets tracks that Moe Tucker might take over on vocal duties while the instrumental, second part of Stupid Things (Reprise) somehow made me think of old Rod the Mod’s version of I Don’t Want To Talk About It. According to Stereogum, both Rod and Girl Ray attended the same school. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

There really are a myriad of influences here, many of them unexpected like the organ motif in Cutting Shapes that’s more than a little proggy. On their Facebook page they describe former snooker star Steve Davies as their hero so maybe they’re into all that Magma and Henry Cow stuff that he adores.

Or maybe they’re just being ironic.

Monday Tuesday meanwhile is wonderfully melancholic and comes over at times like a cross between Hefner and Judee Sill and on the near title track Earl Grey (Stuck in a Groove) they certainly do get stuck in a groove.

Amazingly the song lasts thirteen minutes but it’s the shortest sounding track of that length I’ve ever heard or am likely to ever hear. Around the five and a half minute mark, the band start on a kind of fade out coda that starts off with an incantation with gorgeous harmonies and then builds like an indie version of the nah nah nah nah nah nah nah second half of Hey Jude but with all kinds of different instruments like mariachi trumpets, wah wah guitar and jazzy flutes making guest appearances over a rock solid bassline. A bit like Tubular Bells now I come to think of it.

Oh and there’s also a wee touch of Bohemian Rhapsody in the second part of the song (it’s structured into three distinct sections) and a bit of an old fashioned wigout as the song reaches its climax.

You never got that on a Mighty Lemon Drops track, did you?

Big favourites of Unthought of, though, somehow and DJ Marc Riley, the girls played two stages at Glastonbury a few months back and they’ve just been longlisted for a Q Awards ‘best breakthrough act’ gong.

Named an album of the day by 6 Music and album of the week by
Stereogum and Under The Radar, I’ll go further. Earl Grey is the Album of the Month and very likely the Album of the Summer.

It’s newly out on Moshi Moshi Records and from it, this is Stupid Things:

Girl Ray will be touring Britain in the not distant future including a date in Glasgow’s Broadcast early in November. For more on the band click here for their Bandcamp page and here for their Facebook page.


If you’ve ever wondered how you could get to play Carnegie Hall, here’s your answer. And Malcolm Gladwell might well agree with the advice of Ron and Russell Mael.

‘Practice, man, practice.’

This is Gemma Ray with some help from Sparks and How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?

For more on Gemma Ray here’s her website.

* A quick calculation tells me that I’ve spent very approximately a thousand hours writing blogs over the past four years so if Malcolm Gladwell’s principle is right then by around 2053, I should be pretty damn nifty at this kind of thing.